WATCH: Wildfire Conditions in California Produce Intense ‘Firenado’

by Jennifer Shea

California wildfires are growing so strong that they are producing firenadoes, also known as fire whirls. The latest firenado was spotted amid the Chaparral Fire burning west of Temecula, California.

The 100-plus-mph flame funnels happen when rapidly rising heat and turbulent winds merge to form whirling eddies of hot air. Those eddies can become a vortex that sucks up flaming debris and flammable gases, building toward a tornado, per CBS. Moreover, firenadoes can be anywhere from under a foot in size to more than 500 feet in diameter, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Firenadoes used to be an unusual occurrence. But they are growing ever more common as wildfire season becomes more severe.

See the recent firenado here:

Chaparral Fire Now Spans Two Counties

By Sunday afternoon, the Chaparral Fire had grown to 1,425 acres. It was only 10% contained.

The wildfire started yesterday in San Diego County, southwest of Murrieta, off Cleveland Forest Road and Tenaja Road, according to CalFire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

By today, it had spread across both San Diego and Riverside counties. On the San Diego county side, it is burning the perimeter of the Cleveland National Forest. On the Riverside county side, it has reached the edge of La Cresta, an unincorporated community at the foot of the Santa Ana mountains, NBC reports.

Meanwhile, firefighters deployed four air tankers to fight the wildfire. And the Orange County Fire Authority sent helicopters to make water drops. Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Murrieta, Hemet and Corona were also helping 150 firefighters from Riverside and San Diego counties to beat back the blazes from the ground.

Wildfires Are Growing More Destructive

There are currently 85 large fires burning 2.5 million acres across the western U.S., per the National Interagency Fire Center. The fires are drawing in over 27,000 firefighters and support personnel.

The NIFC has asked the Department of Defense to activate 200 active-duty U.S. Army soldiers to help fight the wildfires. The soldiers will be sent to Northern California.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the area burned by wildfires has shot up in the western U.S. over recent years. (In the east, it has stayed flat.) From 1984 to 2000, wildfire season peaked in August, with wildfires burning less than 0.8 million acres per year. Between 2001 and 2017, wildfire season peaked in July. And wildfires burned 1.6 million acres per year.

In 2021, humans have caused at least 36,206 wildfires, per the NIFC. Lightning started roughly 5,013 of them.